• September 10, 2012

When asked just what exactly is a deacon, Steve Pitre bursts out laughing.

“You’ve asked the question that theologians have been pondering for 50 years, and they still haven’t come up with a definitive answer,” said the co-ordinator of the permanent diaconate for the archdiocese of Toronto.

That’s because the nature of the deacon’s work is so all-encompassing and thoroughly engaged with his community that it can often be difficult to lay a strict definition to their ministry.

“The deacon is to be the icon of Christ the servant. When we talk about service, it’s in three areas: charity, liturgy and the word,” said Pitre.

Diaconate candidates in Toronto do four years of formative study and practice at St. Augustine’s Seminary. Unlike a priest, the deacon is ordained through a call to service. The ministry is open to all men between the ages of 35-59, both single and married, and, if married, requires the complete consent and support of his spouse (wives are active in their husband’s ministry).

“If he’s married, the call comes from his marriage and therefore from his family. But, in essence too, even if he’s single, it’s still coming from the family, from his support and from his friends,” said Pitre.

“While everybody seems to see us strictly in liturgy and preaching, that really comes from our service of charity. It starts with our families first, the community and then with a special emphasis on the less fortunate, the weaker members and the marginalized of our society,” said Pitre.

Indeed, in St. Ignatius’ letter to the Trallians, he notes: “… as ministers of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, the deacons should please all in every way they can; for they are not merely ministers of food and drink, but the servants of the Church of God.”

In this way, the deacon serves as a vital part of our Christian community. They work not only in parishes, but in all places where there may be need such as hospitals, prisons, even on the streets. They are the mission of service personified, bringing the liturgy of our faith and the essence of charity to all in our communities who may be at need.

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